Death by Shakespeare

Death by Shakespeare

Death By Shakespeare – Kathryn Harkup

Death by Shakespeare coverSo strange, released 5/5 and has several glowing book blog bits touting its excellence. I checked my (digital) libraries, no known entity. On Apple Books, it was $19.95, $18.99 Amazon Prime, and $9.99 for Kindle.

Kind of all all over the market, and I would greatly prefer the Apple Books version, always slicker and quicker. While I adore hardbound books, in this day and age, I keep so few. I do have a few treasured Shakespeare copies, but again, more for sentimental reasons than anything else.
Death By Shakespeare
But on to Death by Shakespeare

“London was rarely plague-free but there were several severe epidemics during Shakespeare’s time there. Plague outbreaks not only threatened the lives of Londoners but also seriously curtailed the incomes of actors and playwrights.” Page 28.

Shakespeare lore and trivia, apocrypha, etc.? The opening chapters are the quick, biographical sketch of Shakespeare and his milieux, setting the stage, so to speak. Buried is a short notation about his coat of arms, a black ribbon on a yellow field, with a spear, which, to me, looked like a pen or quill, with a notation that it all could — yea, verily — tie to Malvolio and his “cross gartered” in 12th Night. Coincidence, I’m sure.

At first, presumed set-up being “Death by Shakespeare,” wherein I was led to believe it was about the various ways one can die in a Shakespeare play, while the first, cursory look, as I started? Excellent, gentle overview of what is known, and an appropriate amount of lightweight conjecture about how the bard became The Bard. Plus stagecraft, then and now.

Pretty sure my usual source, the feeds I read, think they’ve already commented on this one. But for me, it was an idle purchase, after reading, literaly, 50 or more library books, I wanted something that was scholarly. Fortunately, this is scholarly without being boring, dry, or mind-numbingly tedious. Just the opposite.

The discussion about the meaning of death, both physical and metaphysical, ontological and medical, interesting in its own right, and the command of the Shakespeare canon without browbeating?

Frighteningly topical, too, at times…

“Sixteenth-century Europe was an environment with many opportunities for plague to cross over from rodents to humans.” Page 306.

Not unlike current conditions?

“Smoking didn’t stop plague but the tobacconists made a killing.” Page 320.

Although, other than hand-sanitizer, and the early toilet paper shortage?

But this is about death in its many forms, and perhaps a little tone deaf at times like this, but then, again, maybe not. Kind of a CSI-franchise in laymen’s terms layered in with literature and wit.

COR. Aside.
I do suspect you, madam,
But you shall do no harm.

  • Shakespeare’s Cymbeline 1.5.31-2

I kept thinking, I’ve read a book like this before, Stiff by Mary Roach? Didn’t turn up in my notes, but the outlines of death and its chemical, physical forms? All sounded familiar.

Lively to read, that was for sure, and entertaining, with wit and proper novelistic cadence, tackling two academic subjects and injecting life where there is usually nothing but deadly prose.

Death by Shakespeare

Death by Shakespeare cover
Death By Shakespeare – Kathryn Harkup

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